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New York County Judge Reverses, Says Dog is Property

Posted by Arnold A. Arpino | Nov 10, 2015 | 0 Comments

A Manhattan Supreme Court Justice who initially ruled that the ownership of "Stevie" would be determined by the best interest of "all" involved, which included Stevie, has changed his mind. 

Arthur Engoron J.S.C. ruled in Gellenbeck v. Whitton (154365/2014 Sup. Ct. NY County) that "the correct law is the law of property, and this court will determine and award possession of Stevie according to that law, and no other." 

Justice Engoron initially relied on Travis v. Murray , where Justice Matthew Cooper applied the "best for all concerned" standard.  However, in a more recent case, Justice Geoffrey Wright in Szubski v. Conrad rejected that doctrine stating, among other things, there is great difficulty in determining in what is in the best interest of an animal, who after all, are incapable of telling humans exactly what they want. 

Justice Engoron said attempting to harmonize these the Decisions of Travis and Szubski, with different facts and modes of analysis applied, would prove difficult if not impossible. 

Justice Engoron stated that animals do not have rights, and to confer rights onto animals would open up a slippery slope.  "...if dogs were deemed to have rights, why not cats, raccoons, squirrels, fish, ants, cockroaches? Could you be imprisoned for swatting a fly? Where will it all end?"

The dispute arose after the plaintiff Gellenbeck brought an action seeking to force a sale of the co-op the two parties shared, and requested a declaration that he was the rightful owner of Stevie.

There is a hearing scheduled for early December to determine who will be awarded custody of Stevie. 

About the Author

Arnold A. Arpino

Arnold practices Creditor's Rights & Collections, Health Law, Real Estate, & Estate Planning.

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